Telebriefing: Christine Whitman, Labor, Environmental Justice groups urge EPA on Disaster Prevention

June 12, 2012

A telebriefing was held on the latest efforts to prevent chemical disasters using existing Clean Air Act authorities. Topics included EPA's June 11, 2002 plan to roll out new rules requiring safer processes at dangerous chemical plants after the 9/11 attacks, which were withdrawn by the Bush White House. Participants heard from Governor Whitman, representatives of chemical plant workers and environmental justice advocates living near chemical facilities that threaten a catastrophic release of poison gases, and the latest on EPA's current consideration of these proposals.

A recording of the telebriefing is available here

Governor Christine Todd Whitman: As former EPA Administrator, Whitman oversaw the EPA's 2002 proposal to require US chemical plants to be safer following the 9/11 attacks. The proposal, which was scuttled by the Bush White House, was scheduled to be rolled out the week of June 11, 2002 and would have been fully implemented by 2004. Governor Whitman was EPA Administrator from January 2001 to May 2003 and was the first woman elected Governor of New Jersey, serving two terms from 1993-2000.

Bob Bostock was Whitman's homeland security adviser and helped develop the 2002 EPA proposal. He is a freelance political and corporate speechwriter.

Michael Wright is the director of Health, Safety & Environment for the United Steelworkers. He was part of an international team that went to Bhopal, India to investigate the 1984 chemical disaster at Union Carbide.

Richard Moore was the first chair of the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). He works with many communities endangered by chemical plants and is the program director for Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, NM.

Rick Hind is the legislative director of Greenpeace and has worked on chemical disaster prevention policy since the 1984 Bhopal disaster.

In addition several experts were on the call to answer questions. They included Paul Orum, author of four Center for American Progress reports on safer chemical alternatives, Scott Nelson, attorney with the Public Citizen Litigation Group, Ed Schlegel a retired LA fire captain and Michele Roberts of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights.


Why: Ten years ago, Christine Todd Whitman's EPA planned to roll out rules that would have required safer processes at chemical plants, but the proposal was withdrawn by the Bush White House (internal documents detailing EPA's 2002 roll out plans are available here). Now, as Congress has failed to address the issue, a blue-green coalition of more than 100 labor, environmental, public health, and environmental justice organizations are urging President Obama to take executive action to protect Americans from the risks posed by dangerous chemical facilities by enforcing existing Clean Air Act authorities. Governor Whitman has also urged action in an April 3, 2012 letter to current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

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